I’m sure most of you have heard about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in some form or manner. Whether it is in the shape of the hashtag #NoDAPL or seeing celebrities such Shailene Woodley getting arrested over it, there has been no consistent media reporting on this topic. For those unaware, the Dakota Access Pipeline would be over 1,100 miles long and carry crude oil from fields in North Dakota to a port in Illinois. Here’s a brief timeline of the conflict:
February 17th, 2015: “The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the federal government body in charge of the nation's waterways, sends a letter to the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO), initiating the permitting process.” Even though the THPO replies that they would like an investigation of the lands due to its historic and sacred value, the USACE does not respond.
January 25th, 2016: Dakota Access, a subsidiary of the Texas-based company Energy Transfer Partners in charge of building the pipeline, announced publicly that they have received permission of the North Dakota Public Service Commission to build the pipeline.
April 22nd, 2016: The Army Corps finished their investigation over claims that significant tribal lands were being harmed by concluding that the pipeline will have no impact on those sites.
July 25th, 2016: “The Corps issues the final fast-track permit (Permit 12) needed to continue pipeline construction in the 200-odd sites across four states in question.” Despite the pipeline being only half a mile away from the Missouri River, the environment assessment by the Corps found no impact.
July 27th, 2016: The lawyers for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe officially filed a complaint against the USACE to block the construction of the pipeline.
September 3rd, 2016: The first major clash between the Dakota Access workers and the protesters of the pipeline. The protesters were pepper sprayed and the issue started to gain more national attention.
There are two major problems with this entire ordeal, first: the USACE is required to have the Standing Rock Sioux’s input throughout the process because of the National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106) which they did not, and second: if the pipeline ever leaks, it could lease toxins into the Missouri River which is Standing Rock’s only source of water. Both are extremely substantial concerns, especially considering the sacredness of the land involved.
The land was originally “accorded” to the Sioux tribes in 1868, but it was taken back by the U.S. government bit by bit through legislation without proper Native representation. Because of this, Section 106 was created as the right to be consulted. It states, “Whenever a federal agency undertakes or approves a construction project, it must consult with local Native nations or tribes about whether sacred sites or places are nearby.”
Not only that, Congress even states that the Native tribes should be consulted even if the lands does not belong to them as long as they have sacred beliefs or significance attached to the land. In this case, not only were the Sioux leaders not involved in the paperwork, they rushed to start the construction before the investigation of the sacred sites was even conducted. The legal team for the Standing Rock had evidence that the site had an Iyokaptan Tanka constellation which indicated that a venerated Chief was buried nearby. To ignore this information demonstrates blatant disrespect by the US Army Corps of Engineers, an extreme source of anger for many.
But apart from a historic and sacred point of view, this pipeline can be detrimental for the water source of Standing Rock. Anything harming the water source would violate the Clean Water Act as well as the National Environmental Policy Act. Interesting fact: the pipeline was originally selected to go through state’s capital Bismarck, but the U.S. Department of Interior worried that a potential oil spill could poison the drinking-water supply for those people. So what was their solution? Move it half a mile away from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation where it could still potentially poison their only water supply.
This is exactly what makes the entire situation so bizarre, the USACE is inflicting the same onto the Native Indians what they are trying to protect the others from. As the conflict has escalated, the protestors have been faced with dogs, pepper sprays, and even armed police for simply demanding to have clean water and not have their ancestors disrespected.
It is not hard to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock. To help, please contact your Congressional Representative or Senator and tell them to oppose the easement of Army Corps of Engineers. Just remember, if you wouldn’t want a pipeline going through a regular American graveyard, then you cannot be okay with a pipeline going through theirs. To learn more, please visit: http://standingrock.org/news/call-for-support--sta.../